Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #25

Like a good Saturday morning cartoon, the Marvel Adventures line has a simple set of goals at the start of every episode. They aim to deliver an entertaining action tale, to raise a few issues along the way, and to answer every question and restore the status quo before reaching that final page. If you’re looking for a quick, entertaining read without all the strings of a mainstream series, this is your best bet.

Jeff Parker’s story fits the mold perfectly. This is a quick, enjoyable ride alongside just about every marketable face in the Marvel Universe. His story this month, of a service that allows its clientele to momentarily take over the minds of a celebrity (superheroes included, naturally) is straight out of a cartoon, something that wouldn’t fly within the 616 Universe. It’s a simple concept, treated imaginably enough to entertain young and old alike, and doesn’t worry itself with any explanations. It works, it’s keeping the Avengers from doing their jobs, and that’s about all you need to know about it. Clearly, Parker subscribes to the “unstable molecules” scientific method – tell ‘em as little as you can and move on with the story – a true Marvel staple.

But while I can’t fault his concept for getting a little silly and playing around with the format a bit, I did have some problems with the finer points of his storytelling. His dialog, for one, is extremely cheeseball throughout the issue. A lot of that is a tongue-in-cheek parody of the Paris Hilton generation, granted, but just because the joke is funny the first time doesn’t mean it's something you should carry throughout the issue. He also has a tendency to insult his characters' intelligence that's mildly disturbing. Iron Man takes the Wrecking Crew for granted before their battle, for example, when the villainous team typically deserves a lot more respect than that. Later, when the team goes incognito into the brain-snatching service's headquarters, they don't stop addressing each other by their superheroic identities, even when they're standing right in front of the company's executives. Just because the characters in the story don't notice doesn't mean the readers don't, either.

Artist Ig Guara has been on this title for some time now, and he's really starting to come into his own within the format. His style is perfectly suited to the lighter storytelling that's expected of books within the MA line, and instead of growing tired of the kid-focused, out of the spotlight nature of such a book, he's using it as his own personal playground. A lot of the things he's trying would seem excessive in a more mainstream book, but because the rules here are a bit more lax, he's really able to cut loose and try some new things.

I won't lie: sometimes his experiments don't work. But when they do, they make any and all preceding failures absolutely worth it. His contributions here are tremendous and innovative: for instance, when Wolverine is slammed into the roof of a museum, Guara tilts the camera backwards to make that moment of impact as disorienting as it is powerful. Even off the battlefield, in the more mundane environment of the post-fight meeting room, he brings an original slant to the book's visual identity. The guy's always looking for an excuse to try a new perspective, a fresh pose, and the enthusiasm he brings to his work is infectious. Guara still has a few wrinkles in his style, struggling particularly with his cast's facial expressions, but he brings so much to the title that such shortcomings can be overlooked for the moment. With any luck, he'll remain on this book for a long time.

This series, and this issue in particular, is a blast. Both the writer and the artist are having the time of their lives playing around with these characters without repercussions, and it shows. While the story does occasionally border on the ridiculous, and the artwork has its moments of weakness, as a whole, this is more fun than I've had reading a comic in some time. Buy it if you need a distraction. It's childish, but it's still a great ride.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8.5

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